A shrewd and stylish investment

Timeshare used to be bad news. It was what happened to unwary people on holiday in half-built Spanish resorts. Sharkish touts would promise couples free gifts (often an imitation brass carriage clock) or a ride in the company's speedboat and, in exchange, holidaymakers agreed to attend a "presentation" which would sometimes last several hours. Effectively detained against their will, kept in a darkened room and shown slides and "artists' impressions" of villas and apartments in mind-numbing profusion, many signed on the dotted line in order to secure their release. The price of freedom was often a lifetime of holidays in the Canary Islands.

Timeshare used to be bad news. It was what happened to unwary people on holiday in half-built Spanish resorts. Sharkish touts would promise couples free gifts (often an imitation brass carriage clock) or a ride in the company's speedboat and, in exchange, holidaymakers agreed to attend a "presentation" which would sometimes last several hours. Effectively detained against their will, kept in a darkened room and shown slides and "artists' impressions" of villas and apartments in mind-numbing profusion, many signed on the dotted line in order to secure their release. The price of freedom was often a lifetime of holidays in the Canary Islands.

Now timeshare has partly cleaned up its act and the business, which boomed in the mid-Nineties, continues to grow. The UK market, which is expanding faster than any other in Europe, has doubled over the past 10 years. The number of Britons who took timeshare holidays last year was 1,250,000 - more than went skiing or took a cruise. One of the reasons is that European legislation has given the consumer greater protection. Even Spain, which was dragging its feet on the issue, has now signed up to laws which give potential timeshare purchasers a cooling-off period of 10 days when no deposit may be taken and during which there is no penalty for a change of mind - an important point when 50 per cent of clients have second thoughts and cancel.

What is surprising is that timeshare has moved up-market. One of the world's largest timeshare exchange organisations, RCI, says the typical British timesharer is a home owner aged between 45 and 64, "well educated", with two cars and no children at home, who takes at least two holidays and two short breaks every year. The most satisfied customers among that group, according to Sandy Grey of the Timeshare Consumers' Association, are people who have bought in the secondary market - that is, not at top prices straight from the developer - and who have shopped around for properties in desirable locations.

The location of the timeshare is an important guide to its bankability in the exchange market. Few owners want to spend the rest of their holiday-making lives returning to the same place and a major incentive to buyers is the possibility of swapping their weeks for holidays in a choice of around 3,400 resorts spread across 90 countries worldwide. And this need not be an exchange of one poolside apartment for another - the timeshare bank includes weeks in log cabins in Alaska, in thatched villas in Kenya, in London lofts, Manhattan apartments, on a kibbutz in Israel and, in a recent addition to the timeshare world, on narrowboats on waterways from Nottingham to Bath.

The cost of using an exchange scheme may be £100 or so for each transaction but most customers seem happy to pay that, knowing that they can expect holiday accommodation of a very high standard. Many complexes have their own health clubs, restaurants and tennis courts with links to golf courses and other sports facilities.

Stepping into this non-shady timeshare arena are some blue-chip companies such as Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, Thomas Cook and Disney, which have all opened timeshare operations in Europe.

So where have the old timeshare touts gone? Selling ice-cream or hiring clapped-out motorcycles to careless tourists? No, their new game, which looks suspiciously like the old one, is signing up members to "holiday clubs" with a promise that for a few thousand pounds deposit, good-quality accommodation can be guaranteed for years to come. Mostly, the deal turns out to feature very low-season holidays and sometimes there is no holiday at all. So, if you are approached by a man brandishing a scratchcard and you "win" a holiday or a luxury gift, turn and walk away. There's no such thing as a free carriage clock.

Top 10 Timeshare Destinations1 Spain/Canaries2 USA3 Portugal4 UK5 Malta6 Mexico7 Canada8 Italy9 South Africa10 India

Source RCI Europe

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?